A blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Dissertation on trust in biobank research

On Saturday, March 9, Linus Johnsson at CRB defends his dissertation:

The dissertation is based on four studies. The first two scrutinize empirical evidence concerning public trust in biobank research. They indicate that people do trust biobank researchers, at least in Sweden.

Such findings might give rise to complacency. The ethical regulatory system obviously works and promotes trust. Biobankers can relax.

The third study, however, is a conceptual investigation showing such a reaction to be mistaken. Trust creates obligations in the person who is being trusted. If a doctor collects samples from patients and suspects that their trust is mistaken in one way or another, the doctor has an obligation to handle that mistaken trust appropriately. (I’ve written about this study on The Ethics Blog.)

Public trust doesn’t merely indicate trustworthiness. It creates a moral demand. The proper response to public trust in biobank researchers, then, is taking increased moral responsibility.

The fourth study strives in the same direction. It critiques prevalent faith that trustworthiness is best quaranteed by an extensive ethical regulatory system (ethical review, guidelines, etc.). The opposite may very well be the case. Such a system may foster moral complacency and failure among researchers to deal with ethical issues that are not addressed by the system.

If I interpret Linus Johnsson right, the current widespread trust in ethical regulatory systems is mistaken, and his dissertation is an attempt to take responsibility for that mistaken trust by intellectually highlighting and critiquing it.

As this brief summary shows, the dissertation is original and presents some very thought-provoking results, empirically and above all conceptually. For more information about the dissertation, see News from Uppsala University.

If you are in Sweden and want to visit the public examination, it takes place in Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum, Uppsala, Saturday, March 9, 2013, at 09:15.

Pär Segerdahl

We recommend readings - the Ethics Blog


  1. cattivoromadowney

    thankyou for serving,a piece for information Sweden, most of the patients are recruited into biobank research by non researcher doctors.almost Patients trust in doctors may be important to their willingness. There are at least three kinds of mistaken trust, First, trust is mistaken when necessary competence is lacking;Second, trust is irrational whenever the patient is mistaken about
    his actual reasons for trusting. Care must therefore be taken to support the
    patient’s reasoning and moral agency. Third, some patients inappropriately
    trust doctors to recommend only research that will benefit them directly.
    Such trust should be counteracted by nurturing a culture where patients
    expect to be asked occasionally to contribute to the common good.these are also relavent to our dissertation for biobank.

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